LAS VEGAS – Sometimes in rodeo, it only takes one ride to make a change.
That came for saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper after Wednesday’s seventh round of the National Finals Rodeo. He was just 74 points on King Rodeo & Wentz Bucking Bulls’ Popeye, and he knew things needed to turn around. Fast forward to Thursday, where Casper spurred Mosbrucker Rodeo Freckles for 87 points to finish fourth in the eighth round, pocketing $12,877.
“I crewed up on that Popeye horse and had to redeem myself,” said Casper, a four-time NFR qualifier from Miami, Texas. “I really thought I’d have the round win tonight, but I was a half point off.”
Three cowboys shared the round victory with scores of 87.5, so that dropped the Oklahoma Panhandle-raised cowboy down, but he’ll take what he can get. It was his highest placing so far at ProRodeo’s grand championship, where he’s collected $47,640. He has ridden eight horses for a cumulative score of 664.5 points and sits eighth in the aggregate race.
“That half point decides a lot about money,” he said. “I feel really good, and we’ll just carry that into the eliminator round (Friday) and into the TV pen Saturday and just try to make all of the money we can.”
This is the world’s richest rodeo, with nearly $100,000 up for grabs every go-round. The three men who scored higher than Casper each collected $24,433. Still, any check at the NFR is huge; only the top 15 in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season play on this stage, a showcase of the sport’s elite.
Casper beat 11 other cowboys, so he has some things to carry him through the final two nights of the 2023 campaign. He is 10th in the world standings with $190,061.
“I’ve got mixed feelings about this NFR,” he said. “My week hasn’t really gone how I wanted it to go, and there’s part of me that wants 10 more. There’s also part of me that is ready to pack it up and go home. I’m going to make the best out of these next two horses and go into the new year and push forward to be a world champ.”
No matter what happens in the arena, he knows his heart is with his wife, Lesley, and their two children, Cooper and Cheyenne. They have rented an Airbnb for their time in Las Vegas, so the kids have room to run around. Spending quality time with them offers the respite he needs when he’s not handling his business on the best bucking horses in rodeo.
“We’ve enjoyed it,” said Casper, the 2016 intercollegiate champion while attending Clarendon (Texas) College. “Chey’s birthday is Dec. 6, so she has a birthday out here every year. We don’t do anything crazy, but we get to hang out with our family.
“I’ve had a lot of family out here. We’ve been pretty lucky to be able to get everybody out here and enjoy it. I’m pretty lucky to be able to get some family out here; we really enjoy it.”
He has two more chances to add to his annual income, so he’ll focus on the tasks at hand. It is, after all, the biggest business venture of his season.